Book Review – Tarot Spreads: Layouts & Techniques to Empower Your Readings

9780738727844A star, cross, circle, square or triangle spreads comes in many shapes and sizes. The spread is the corner stone to a tarot reading, it is  that very thing that makes the reading possible. Even laying out just one card is a spread, a one card spread but a spread non the less. There are numerous books that are devoted to the subject of spreads, listing spread after spread out of countless spreads. Some spreads are classic, some are created at the time of the reading, and they all can be edited, modified by each reader to suit their needs and the needs of the client when needed. Spreads are magical in that they can be created out of inspiration from anything. Seriously, anything. I saw a spread that was inspired by the cast of the Comedy Central tv show South Park. A spread can make or break the reading. A poorly designed spread could create a horrible reading as compared to a properly created spread which will allow the reading to flow with ease.


Spreads have been a issue I have contemplated over since I first picked up my cards. I went to the LWB and saw that there was something called a “celtic cross” spread. So I tried it and had no clue what I was looking at or what I was reading. what the heck does “that which is crossing you” mean?? Someone please explain? It was not till later I found out “crossing” means something which is opposing you. I wish someone would have explained that in the first place. Later on I saw other spreads like the Star Spread, the Horseshoe spread or the horoscope spread. At one point i had a collection of spreads that I printed out. But over time I found that I liked it best to create custom spreads for each client and their unique question & situation. I did that for a long time and a few years ago I shifted once more, focusing on 3 card spreads only. Using three cards fit well into my philosophy of Keeping it Simple.


I never liked putting spreads into shapes. So I would just put them in a straight line. What the heck is the point to a star or circle?? Pointless in my opinion. However lately I have been having to question my beliefs, I have been reevaluating my of my opinions for my book I am writing. Spreads have been something I had to question. I was hoping someone who write a book that would make a case for the purpose of spreads, the purpose of the shapes and give me some reason to change my mind. Give me a reason why I am wrong, show me the alternate way.


Enter “Tarot Spreads” by Barbara Moore.


Barbara does an excellent job in her latest creation. Tarot Spreads is a fantastic addition to the subject of Tarot Spreads. This book has given a lot for me to think about, it has caused the gears and cogs in my brain to turn. I can happily say that my position on spreads has been influenced and I am rethinking the subject.


Barbara says “Tarot Cards are like the subconscious mind, full of inspiration and wisdom that we didn’t know we knew. Tarot Spreads are like the conscious mind. They help organize all that glorious raw data triggered by the cards so that we can interpret it and apply it properly to the situation in question”.  Which is a perfect analogy and really defines the role and purpose of the spread. It organizes the information presented by the cards in clear defined positions.


Barbara describes why the layout of the spread is important, which is something I wanted to hear. Ok Barbara what is it? Well she states that you need to think about art and graphic design and the psychology used in designs. Everything is designed with purpose. How people read either right to left or left to right. We see time as moving from Left to Right and so forth. So for example a linear line in a spread suggests time and events in a chronological order. Like the Past Present Future spread.


Barbara goes on to explain the “design principles” which is great. Here she talks about the characteristics of spreads, such as Balance, Symmetry and Spacing and others explaining  their implications and influence of the spread. Ok so far she has me thinking and I am liking what I am reading.


No spread is the “end-all, be-all” as Barbara says, each spread has it’s strengths and weakness. I really liked it when Barbara talks about our assumptions, that all spreads make assumptions about that question and about the answer and she give examples of this. This gives all of us some food for thought next time we use a spread or create a spread for someone.


Barbara stresses in her book that your personal style and beliefs are what are most important when it comes to the reading and the choice of spreads. Do you believe that the future can be known? If you don’t you would not use a spread with an “outcome card” or edited a spread that has it to not include it. So you can pick up this book and will not have preaching you dogma on how you should read or what spreads you must use, rather gives you the tools to create your own or modify existing spreads.


This is not a Spread Bible or Encyclopedia on Spread, however it does have over 60 spreads which is just enough,  there should be a spread for almost any situation in here for you and your clients. Yes there are other book that have more spreads but it is not quantity but rather quality which is the focus of this book. This book is better than most of the other spread books on the market. Because Barbara presents the information in a manner, much like if you were going to take a workshop on spreads where you have Barbara in front of you teaching why spreads are important, the inner workings of spreads and their purpose. Not simply throwing a bunch of spreads together and leave you to fend for yourself as is the case with most books on spreads.  This is exactly what I have been looking for!


I compared Barbara’s book to other books which deal with spreads. Eight books to be exact. What I have noticed in most of the books on spreads is that it is just a collection of spreads or it is a book with a large amount of spreads in addition to quick card meanings. Other books give spreads which sample readings using the spreads. Only one book is geared towards trying to teach spreads but in my opinion it was formulated and constructed poorly so it is not user friendly. Barbara’s book really stands out as unique to the rest, there is only one other book that I own which comes close to being a true competitor, so we are looking at here a book which is above the rest in the spread category.


But this book goes beyond just listing spreads and explaining them, there is  a chapter called “techniques to add to any spread”, which are little techniques to add to your readings to spice things up. Barbara also guides you through creating your own spreads. This section is not overly complicated as you might think. Barbara says that a spread can be created via inspiration in many different things like pulling out a card from your deck and creating spread from it, like The Wheel of Fortune spread. At the end she shares with us how to do a “78 card reading” which is very ambitious and I don’t think I will ever try it, but it is always good to know it is there.


There are somethings which are not in this book. There are no sample readings. You will be presented with the spreads but no follow up samples to see the spread in action. I am not sure if that is a bad thing, that is up to you. It would have been a nice addition but not having sample readings is not a huge deal in my opinion. Just be aware there are none.


There is something which I was hoping that would be in this book that is not, which is the subject of when “bad cards” appear in good positions in a spread and vice versa. This is something which I think stumps many readers. What I mean by this is , if a spread has a position called “What is good in the relationship” and The Devil comes up, how the heck is that suppose to be read? And vice versus. If you have a spread with “What is bad in the relationship” and you get The Sun  how should this be viewed. I was hoping there might be tips and suggestions to deal with this issue however there is not.  Maybe down the line Barbara could address this issue in a later edition to the book.


When I read a book I want to feel like the author is conversing with me as if we were face to face and I swear at one point I thought she wrote one passage just for me! The passage goes like this “there are ways to incorporate two or more decks into a reading… Do you have several versions of a favorite deck? (YES I do)… Some artists produce and sell a special edition of their deck and then a publisher will release a mass market edition.. (Yep I do, Legacy of The Divine Special edition and Mass market).. or perhaps you have a traditional RWS deck as well as one of the many variations, such as Radiant or universal. Guilty as charged, I have 17 RWS. I laughed while reading this passage.. It was a real pleasure to read this book. Barbara’s writing style was very inviting and I read it all in one day, which I normally don’t do with books. I was able to try one of the spreads listed for another fellow reader with good results.


In conclusion, Tarot Spreads by Barbara Moore is a breath of fresh air on the subject of spreads. It is a unique addition to the tarot market and will be a great addition to your tarot practice. I can honestly say that this book has giving me much to think about and I know the more I study it and apply it to my practice it will help make me a better reader. This book should be picked up by new readers in addition to a normal book on learning tarot cards meanings and basics for a well rounded introduction to tarot. Even if you have been reading tarot for years, this book can make you a better reader.




The recipient of Tarosophist of the Year 2011, Angelo Nasios is a rising voice in the tarot community. Angelo is known for his popular YouTube channel in which he produces educational tarot videos. Tarot: Unlocking the Arcana, Angelo’s first book will be released by Schiffer Publishing.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me: